Elodie and Evelyn in The Hermitage

Exploring Edinburgh with a 3 Year Old (Part 1)

Having an extremely active and lively 3 year old, I am always looking for new places to take her which will simultaneously keep both her and me entertained. There are only so many times you can go to soft play before it becomes a bit, well, boring. We have a great city out there to explore, which is way more exciting and at this age absolutely everything is fascinating. If I had a penny for every question I get asked that starts in ‘how’ or ‘why’ I would be a wealthy woman.

Living in Edinburgh we are fortunate to have so many great places on our doorstep, in just a few minutes you can be in the countryside, at the beach, up a hill or enjoying one of the numerous attractions in the city centre. There are plenty of places to help feed those curious little minds and develop their imaginations.

Here are just a few of our favourite places to explore in Edinburgh. In no particular order.

Bonaly Country Park – Pentland Hills

Just up the Bonaly road and over The City of Edinburgh Bypass you will find Bonaly Country Park. With hills and woodlands a plenty this is an excellent spot to explore (and in our case have a good search for The Gruffalo). There are beautiful views across Edinburgh and a nice walk around the Torduff Reservoir. There is an abundence of wildlife here and if you are lucky (like us) you might see an eagle hovering above.

Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World

A great option if the weather is not so good. The Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World is situated within the grounds of Dobbies garden centre in Lasswade. My daughter Elodie loves the butterfly’s and turtles in the butterfly house and for me, its my annual trip to hold a tarantula to tell myself I am not really scared of spiders (just, it would seem, those quick and scary house spiders that run up your arm when you least expect it).

Spider at Butterfly World
Holding the Tarantula at Butterfly World

With a daily ticket you can get your hand stamped and then come and go as you please. There are fish and snake feeding’s and two animal handling sessions where you can learn a bit more about the animals and hold a giant millipede, snake and a tarantula. During our latest visit Elodie held all of the animals and was quite taken with the snake. She also enjoyed trying to spot the Queen in the new honey bee hive.

Snake at Butterfly World
Elodie touching the snake at Butterfly World

Just a little note for the Mum’s and Dad’s, a day out here would not be complete without a visit to the Dobbies Farm Foodhall. They sell the most delicious Parmesan and olive bread, which tastes excellent with some Saint Agur from their cheese counter.

Cramond Beach

I find us going back to Cramond time and time again. Its perfect for dogs and kids. An abundance of space for them to run around in. Our Black Lab Molly absolutely loves it here. We have spent many days watching her swim out to collect her ball, chase the birds and roll about in the sand. Its the perfect place for the kids to explore and collect shells on the beach.

Exploring Cramond Beach
Elodie exploring Cramond beach with our friends Kirsten, Evelyn and Keith
Cramond Beach
Playing on Cramond Beach last year (2013) with our friend Laura.

When the tide is out you can walk over the causeway to Cramond Island. Its approx one mile. However, you need to be careful that you time it correctly. On a few occasions I have seen the lifeboats head out to pick up people who failed to realised the tide was on the turn. An experience I am sure would be quite worrying with a 3 year old. Once when I was younger, way before Elodie was born, myself and a group of friends miscalculated the time it would take to walk back from the island and spent the last 30 yards in knee deep water. We have been more cautious since then!

Cramond is also a great spot for bird watching. I am not so good at recognising different birds but Iain, my other half, knows just about every British bird out there. He is always pointing them out to me. Thanks to our trips to Cramond I can now clearly identify an Oystercatcher. One day during a walk along the promenade we watched as the gulls and crows picked up Mussels from the seabed when the tide was out then dropped them from a height on to the path to try and open them. I found this quite fascinating.

Edinburgh Zoo

Whatever the weather there is lots to see and do at Edinburgh Zoo. You do need a good pair of comfortable shoes though as it lies on a hill, which can be quite steep in places.

Last year we had a family membership so we could come and go as we pleased. I definately recommend this as its a great option to be able to pop into the Zoo for a couple of hours just to see a few things in the morning or afternoon if you can’t commit to a whole day. It also means the Zoo is always an option for days when you don’t want to spend any money. Take a packed lunch and flask of coffee for the adults and its a cheap but great day out (if you can keep them away from the gift shop) :-).

Elodie loves the Zebras and Lions at the Zoo, which means a hike up the hill, tiring but worth it and there is a great view of Edinburgh from the top. You can also treat yourself to some Ben & Jerrys ice cream as a reward for your efforts.

Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo
Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo
Zebra at Edinburgh Zoo
Zebra at Edinburgh Zoo

A visit to Edinburgh Zoo would also not be complete without a trip to the recently renovated Penguin enclosure and of course the Panda’s.
I could watch Tian Tian and Yang Guang all day long. Such beautiful creatures.

I think its also worth mentioning here that Edinburgh Zoo and indeed the  whole of The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) do a great number of research and conservation projects to help conserve threatened species from all across the globe. You can read more about their projects here.

The Hermitage of Braid

Close to where my other half Iain grew up in Edinburgh is the Hermitage of Braid. He spent many days climbing trees, having adventures and no doubt causing some chaos here with his friends as a child. With tall trees, the burn, the woodland, the pond and Blackford Hill there is so much to see and explore.

Molly in the Hermitage
Molly walking in The Hermitage
The Burn in The Hermitage
The Burn in The Hermitage

There is a lot of wildlife to spot here including birds, rabbits, foxes, ducks and more. Its a haven for inquisitive 3 year olds.

Elodie and Evelyn in The Hermitage
Elodie and her friend Evelyn in The Hermitage

Check back soon for Exploring Edinburgh with a 3 Year Old (Part 2) 🙂